Spring Awakening

Although it seems like all’s been quiet on The Green Bin front for the last few weeks, there’s actually been so much happening behind the scenes!

Now that I’ve got a couple large commissioned projects finished and happily tucked away in their new homes, I’m ready to officially unveil a new The Green Bin website and logo!

They reflect the direction that The Green Bin has been taking for the past few months: a furniture and home goods upcycling business that blogs about eco related topics.

How did this happen?

Well, The Green Bin began as an eco blog.

At around the same time, I rediscovered my love for refinishing and upcycling furniture. Before long, I was selling pieces and having fun doing it.

It just made sense to combine the two elements under The Green Bin.

Upcycling falls into the green movement as it offers a more conscientious alternative to buying new goods.

Refusing to buy new products reduces our carbon footprint and upcycling keeps items with life left in them out of landfills.

It also helps reuse items no longer wanted or loved, repairs anything that needs attention and extends the life and beauty of furniture and home goods.

Plus, there are so many gorgeous, vintage, unique and custom pieces out there to find!

Welcome to the new and improved The Green Bin.

 

 

No Junk Mail, Please

My hang up with ads, flyers and junk mail is long standing.

They are a misuse of resources.

“But Jill, they’re recyclable,” I’ve heard.

Yes, they certainly are.

What’s better than recycling? Not having to recycle.

The junk that shows up in mailboxes and doorsteps is a waste of resources, plain and simple.

Junk mail is a waste of trees, paper, water, ink, tiny plastic windows in envelops, thick plasticky bands that bind the piles together in distribution centres, gas, exhaust fumes and time spent on getting them out to households.

Ads, flyers and junk mail often contain information on services I don’t want, stores I don’t spend my money at, products I’ll never buy and political faces I don’t want to see in my mailbox.

Living in this technological world means easier access to the products we do want, at stores we frequent and for services we need.

We have apps and websites at our fingerprints that allow us to cherry pick what is of interest to us.

Stopping junk mail distribution is easy.

If you’re getting a pile of flyers on your doorstep at the same time as your free weekly local newspaper, call the distribution department and ask them to stop delivery.

If it’s in your mailbox, put a sign on it (or on the inside of your community box) asking for no unaddressed mail.

Save time. Save resources. Ditch the junk mail.

 

Green Giving 

My husband came up with the best Christmas gifts for his colleagues.

He cut off nearly a dozen baby offshoots from our large and happy spider plant and potted them in some old, unused and chipped mugs.

Since I can’t throw anything out, I’m so pleased that the mugs have been repurposed. 

I also love that our spider plant is going to improve the air quality while brightening up his stuffy workplace.

And, for bonus points, no waste was produced. 

I’m certain his colleagues will appreciate such a sweet and thoughtful gift.

Bravo!! 

Coffee woes

My favourite beverage is the source of my morning discomfort after a CBC article is blaming convenient packaging, including single use coffee pods, for the increase of curbside garbage in Canada.

Canadians produced 9.6 million tonnes of garbage in 2012. That’s up seven per cent since 2004.

That’s a lot of garbage, Canada!

There’s a way to slow down this rapidly growing issue and it involves reverting to less lazy ways. There, I said it. We’re lazy and wasteful. And it has to stop.

If we started doing things for ourselves again, we’d produce a lot less garbage and waste fewer resources.

Take coffee, for example.

A French press is a brilliant little kitchen tool. It’s the size of your outstretched hand and costs around 10$. For that price, you can have one at home and one at work.

Add two teaspoons of ground coffee and boiling water. Wait a few moments and push the grounds to the bottom of the glass carafe using the handle of the plunger and voila! A delightful cup of coffee totally adjustable to your coffee drinking preferences. Compost the grains and you’re hitting it out of the ballpark.

I know the office world is mildly obsessed with k-cups. Sure they’re convenient but it’s time we redefine convenient. Saving a minute or two a day doesn’t quantify as a significant source of time savings.

Do I really think a French press is our sole solution to excessive garbage production? No.

I think replacing a package of convenience with a sustainable product is a great place to start the long road to shedding our serious dependency on throw away goods.

Start with coffee and the next thing you know, you just might find yourself living a little more mindfully everyday.

The Mystery of Unwanted Clothing

unravel

I think most of us are guilty of not giving a second thought to items we recycle, compost, sell or discard in the trash.

I certainly don’t ponder the fate of cans or boxes after they’re picked up by the recycling truck. I trust that they go off to the recycling plant and are crushed, melted or broken down before being turned into something shiny and useful.

But I am curious about the fate of textiles, particularly clothing. (And mattresses but that’s a topic for another day.)

I have a tendency to keep old ripped clothing that is unfit to be donated. I hope to do something magically crafty with it one day. I think it’s noble but apparently that makes me a bit of a hoarder.

One reason I do this is because I don’t know what else to do with it.

I won’t throw it out because it will sit in a landfill. I won’t donate it because it’s passing along broken junk that will probably get put in a landfill.

So it sits in a box in my basement next to my sewing machine that has had too little use.

I happily donate clothing that is in excellent condition. Those items will surely be sold or re-donated by the pre-loved clothing retailers or community services that receive them.

But what of the donated items that aren’t deemed good enough for that?

The old ripped shirts, sweaters with broken zippers, pants with worn pockets, socks that never found their mates and pajamas that have seen too many nights surely go somewhere.

But where?

Check out Unravel for some answers. It’s an award-winning short film about garment recycling and the workers behind the massive industry so many of us know little about.

It’s fascinating. Whether for good or bad, I’ll never think about donating clothing the same way again.

Happy viewing,

Jill

Eating Out of Styrofoam

Well it looks like styrofoam is still a go to container in take-out restaurants and food festivals.

And I’m ashamed to say that I ate out of the dirty containers twice this weekend.

In fact, my whole weekend was pretty glutenous and I’m stuck somewhere between a bad hang over and shame.

Friday was a family reunion of sorts. Between my two busy kids, a handful of adults, a messy house and a few sore throats, pho, the Vietnamese soup of champions, seemed an easy solution. We got take-out and then got stuck with four giant styrofoam containers — which are not recyclable.

According to Clevland State Univeristy, it takes more than one million years for styrofoam to break down. One million years.

Is one million years worth the 15 minutes of convenience to have a lukewarm bowl pho in your kitchen? Not for a nanosecond.

With the styrofoam safely tucked away in a garbage bag in the garage and the guilt of the pho behind me, I went downtown for family reunion of sorts part II.

We met at the Ottawa Poutinefest on Sparks Street. For those not in the know, poutine is a highly celebrated Canadian concoction of french fries, cheese curds and gravy. Poutinefest vendors add a variety of new and innovative ingredients and mixes the beloved deep fried dish.

So we pick a food truck and order. Suddenly, I’m holding a styrofoam container and a plastic water bottle. Oops. And the guilt comes pouring down.

Now this guilt was two fold: first for the styrofoam and secondly for the incredible amount of grease, fat and over-the-top indulgence I’ve just ingested.

Had I just paid closer attention to each vendor stand, I would have noticed the type of containers the poutine was served in and could have gone to a vendor who gave out cardboard instead. I could have diverted at least one piece of styrofoam from the landfill.

Oh, but wait. Where are the recycling bins? They must be here somewhere. Nope, none in sight. I didn’t see even one recycling bin and I was looking for one. I even asked someone from my group if she noticed any.

She shook her head.

In the end, all the containers went into the garbage bin that day. Only the people who brought their cardboard, cans or bottles home recycled.

I’ve been to enough festivals, concerts and special events all over the world to know that some places are more mindful of the waste created during these gatherings than others. Cities like Amsterdam, Berlin and Tokyo do it right. There are recycling bins everywhere and everyone seems to do their part to keep their cities clean.

Unfortunately my own city, Ottawa, just keeps missing the mark.

And I missed the mark too. I don’t usually get faced with styrofoam. I don’t usually need to buy bottled water. I don’t usually go to food festivals downtown. I don’t usually eat so much awful food.

But I did this weekend. And it won’t happen like that again.

A Lesson in Proximity

I made it out to the Ottawa Farmer’s Market last Sunday for my annual spring pilgrimage.

It’s a yearly event followed by weekly or bi-weekly Sunday visits to peruse stalls, lazily wander about, chat with vendors, have breakfast under a shade tree, buy food for the week and be in the company of like-minded folk.

I wrote last week that I couldn’t wait to see how it evolved in it’s new location and I’m happy to say that it’s still the same lovely, abundant, cheerful and fresh market. I came home with bags full of wonderful products and a tired, happy toddler.

But something happened on the way.

I realized that our Sunday mornings would no longer be spent there.

Now it’s not anyone’s fault. We, both myself and the farmer’s market, moved in the last few months and it’s affected our relationship.

As I’ve moved more south, and further away from the city, it’s moved more north, and into the city’s heart. We’re breaking up because I can no longer justify driving 30 kilometres to buy fresh produce and local products.

Our lack of proximity is turning us into different people. As I’m evolving into a “country” girl, it’s going trendy.

As I’m pushing harder to stay local, it’s just gone too damn far.

I will miss the region’s best honey, fantastic locally made cheeses and the best raspberry scone ever baked but my new home borders farms, food producers and more local-to-me farmer’s markets.

Maybe one day this summer I’ll make the long trek downtown, struggle to find parking, sit in the shade under a concrete building and pick up that amazing honey, cheese and raspberry scone.

But until then, I’m going to spend my weekends exploring smaller farmer’s markets and producers that operate near the village that I live in.

I’m after community, outdoor space and local growers. It turns out that it’s all right in my new backyard!

And that makes me happy.

There are grains, cranberries, eggs, pork, lamb, vegetables, fruit, honey and many other wonderful things to discover…not to mention the Manotick, North Gower and Metcalfe Farmers Markets so close to home.

So let the season begin!

Adieu my beloved market, until we meet again,

Jill

Better Easter Junk…er, gifts

With Easter upon us, I can’t help but reflect on the amount of junk that will fill garbage and recycling bins this weekend.

It seems that the commercial portion of Easter has an excessive amount of plastic, useless toys and really gross treats. (I won’t even comment on the big freaky rabbit.)

I scratch my head at the palm sized bunnies that squeak when you touch their feet or the little ducklings that sit in an egg and peep.

Sure they keep dollar stores open but do they serve any other purpose?

Since spring is finally here, why not consider getting the kids some outdoor activities like sidewalk chalk, skipping ropes or balls instead of candy and chocolate.

Better yet, get them some seeds and gardening gloves. Show them how magical spring really is and how quickly seedlings grow. By the time the plastic ducks and bunnies are in the landfill, the kids will still be watching their little miracles grow!

Happy Easter,

Jill

Going Green(er)

Going green isn’t about achieving a destination: it’s a journey on a path.

That path is sometimes so clearly identified and well trodden that anyone can find their way around. What do I mean?

Well, recycling pops into mind:

  • Rinse the can.
  • Drop it in the blue bin.
  • Put the bin at the road.
  • Pick up by recycling truck.
  • Put empty bin in garage.
  • Repeat.

I’ve got that down pat.

Other times, the path breaks off into so many other overgrown paths that the options become muddled. What do I mean?

Well, composting pops into mind:

  • Buy expensive compost bags for the city run program.
  • Use bags (for a number of years).
  • Put allowed items in the bags.
  • Put bags in green bin.
  • Put bin at road.
  • Feel good about effort.
  • Refuse pick up by compost truck.
  • Call the city.
  • Explain to the city that we’ve been using same bags for years.
  • Discover that local stores sell compostable bags that the city doesn’t accept.
  • Feel ashamed that effort has been in vain.
  • Listen patiently as city says only option is to remove all compostable bags from bin.
  • Remove two week old compost from the bags in the bin.
  • Return bin to the road, sans compostable bags.
  • Return of compost truck.
  • Pick up by compost truck.
  • Put empty bin to garage.
  • Vow to never buy compostable bags again.
  • Look into home composting.
  • Become overwhelmed by options: location, bins, worms, winter composting.
  • Scratch head.
  • Buy compost bags sanctioned by the city until another solution is found.
  • Feel somewhat good about effort put in.
  • Wait until spring for new solution.

True story.

What I find interesting about going green, other than watching husband’s face as he rifles through two week old compost bins, are the endless options available.

Back to my example.

There are levels of composting: you can use the city run program or go totally hardcore and start a worm colony. I’m not sure where we’ll end up on the spectrum, probably somewhere in between. I’m not a particular fan of worms.

Nothing is black and white. It’s….well….green. And there are many shades of green.

Although I’ve been treading on a light green path for a number of years, having children made me really reconsider how much more I can do.

Being green(er) is thinking about and putting effort into waste reduction, eliminating household toxins, buying local, gardening, rearing green babies, becoming energy efficient, cooking, re-using, enjoying a conscious way of living and being more natural.

This blog is about my effort, no, my vow, to be more naturally green.

Happy health,

Jill